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New Year roach shine on the Blackwater

January 3, 2020 at 7:54 pm

After the sunshine of Monday’s session on the local river Cut, heavy black clouds were scudding across the sky as I approached the river Blackwater on Thursday, close to the town that bares its name. My wife’s desire for a mooch around the Lexicon Shopping Centre near our home, gave me a free pass for an afternoon fishing, even though it seemed that it could be a damp one.

With light drizzle in the air, I walked upstream to a swim that I had fished in summer, the grey outlook in contrast to the lush green I remembered. The river was low and clear, but pushing hard, this being the tail of a wide bend, where a channel no more than two feet deep passes close to the my bank. Getting ready to fish, I put in my keep net and saw it swept off to the side in the current, deciding that a heavy 6 No 4 ali stick would give better control, despite the shallow depth.

With only bread punch as usual, I readied the liquidised bread, squeezing up a firm ball, throwing it ten feet upstream close in, watching it break up as it swirled in the flow drifting down stream. About to cast in, another angler arrived at my side, returning back to his car after a blank session further upstream. After the usual pleasantries and the refusal of some maggots, due to the fact that I only had bread as bait, I cast in to test the flow and hooked a roach in the first five feet of travel, letting the fish run out to the middle before bringing it back to the net.

Amazed at the instant success, my visitor peered over the bank into the shallows in front of me, surprised that there were roach, where he could see the bottom. My experience of earlier in the week, on the equally clear and shallow Cut, when passers by had scared away my fish doing just that, were fresh in my mind. He was a very pleasant fellow and continued to chat, watching the float, as I worked it further down the swim, holding back bringing another positive bite, followed by a roach in the net.

The fish were sitting ten yards downstream in the main flow, dipping the float as it drifted down, knocking off the 6 mm bread pellet each time, but stopping the travel after the first sign of a bite brought a fish on, but off again, losing two big dace on as many casts. With overhanging branches, the fish had to be reeled back flat to the river, until close enough to net.I fed another ball to keep up interest and ran through again, this time lifting into a small chub under my rod top, that dived away, letting it run, trying to avoid another lost fish from the size 16 barbless hook.

My new friend had stepped away from the bank to answer his phone and the fish had moved back up to the feed, but now he was back again and the bites dropped away. This was not easy fishing, the weir upstream was now at full flow and I added six inches to the depth and bulked the shot closer to the hook, taking more roach ten yards down.

Damping down the bread feed, I squeezed up pigeon egg sized balls, plopping them in upstream of me every few casts, the balls breaking up and coating the bottom close to me, dropping the float out in front, trotting through with a tight line, some of the bites bending the rod tip as the fish took.

After about an hour my visitor left, hopefully having learned something about fishing the punch and leaving me to catch some more fish. Although well before sunset, it was now growing darker, the low clouds depositing an uncomfortable, downstream wind driven misty drizzle. Not pleasant, with the need to keep the punch bread covered to stop it being softened too much.

I now had the fish where I wanted them, this chub hooking itself. I lost another big dace as it churned on the surface, but compensated with another decent roach next cast.

The fish kept coming, this chub the last to stay in focus on my camera, the Flash whiting out the images. Gudgeon, small dace and roach taking their turn over the feed. The pace of the river had picked again, washing out debris, coating my line and I was beginning to spend more time unpicking these washing lines, than fishing and called it a day before 3 pm, not wanting to pack up in the dark.

The Punch had done me well again, although a size 14 may have hung onto some of the big dace long enough to net them, but I was not complaining, it had been a short spontaneous session, that kept delivering fish to the net.







Festive chaos among the roach and dace

December 31, 2019 at 6:26 pm

With the Christmas festivities over, I found a few hours before New Year to fish my local river, bright sunshine and no floods promising a rewarding session. The tiny river runs through a public park with a path along its banks and the sun had brought half the town out, while the other half were shopping. Whole families seemed to be riding on shiny new bicycles, dodging dog walkers and duck feeders, as they competed for a place on the path. Pieces of bread drifted downstream unchallenged by the many mallard ducks and moorhens, that patrol this waterway, no doubt, like us, brimmed with too much food, enthusiastically offered more as a ritual, than a necessity by willing mothers of children.

For myself, bread is the main bait on this river, ducks ground baiting for me, as they nibble there way through the slices. Setting up to fish bread punch on a running line and stick float rig set 30 inches, I was joined by a fellow club member, Michael, who asked if I minded him fishing 30 yards downstream. As I was intending to trot 15 yards down to a bush, I had no objections. Having already put a couple of small balls of liquidised bread over to the main flow along the opposite bank, I made my first cast over, seeing the float disappear in the first five feet of travel. A lift and I was playing a nice roach, which impressed Michael, making sure of my catch with the landing net. Too many fish swung in to inflate my ego in front of an audience, that then came off the hook, taught me a lesson; always use the landing net.

The roach were soon lined up in my swim, invisible in the clear water, until the hook was set, flashing silver, when they turned away.

These were just the right size to build a weight, plenty of fight, but predictable on the way to the net.

Another ball of bread brought dace on the feed, holding back hard producing firm takes from these notoriously fast feeders, the Anglo Saxon name of dart an apt description.

These have grown well since being introduced by the Environment Agency a few years ago.

Roach and dace now took turns in taking the 5 mm punch of bread on a size 16 hook and all seemed set for a red letter day.

As lunchtime approached the “Caught anything mister?” and “Oooh the man has caught a fish” brigade increased. I don’t mind a bit of attention, but when they stand peering down into the clear shallows, where I am catching fish and the bites stop, it gets a bit wearing. When a pair of twins in identical pink coats arrived to ply me with questions, “What have you got in your net mister?” followed by “Can you see the big fish in there Maisy?”, it was time to get out the turkey and gammon sandwiches.

Audience gone, I put on my bait apron, realising that my jeans, clean on that morning, were already getting slimed up. I began to catch again, including another decent roach.

Splash!! A large dog had taken a flying leap into the river, chasing ducks through my swim, it’s furious owner shouting ignored commands, until the woolly beast gave up and returned to the bank, showering everyone with ice cold river water.

This was the last straw. The river was now muddied and I took the opportunity to move my stuff in stages, twenty five yards down stream, where the main path rose away from the bank, placing my tackle box on a narrow strip that sloped toward the river. This still did not deter a few more young adventurers from threading their way through my strewn accessories, or several dogs from sniffing out the contents of my bait bag. Michael had long moved on to another downstream swim, having complained of dace smashing his maggots.

The river had picked up pace, creating an eddy down my side, the muddy water was gone, but replaced by a thick orange soup, my keepnet now hidden in the murk. First cast in the float bobbed and dipped and I lifted into a big gudgeon that hugged the bottom.

It was now a gudgeon a chuck, not ideal, but at least the float kept going under.

The river was clearing again and I caught a roach. This river suffers from several industrial outfalls and daily changes colour to this dirty orange. The origin is a mystery, but it puts the roach, chub and dace off the feed, while gudgeon seem to thrive in it.

As the river clears, so the roach come back. I had more gudgeon, then my last fish, another small roach. I couldn’t wait for more roach to show and packed up while the sun still shone.

It had been a busy few hours, even if all had not gone to plan, there were a lot of fish in my net, about 4 lb in weight, although half what I had hoped for at the start of the session.





Blackwater bread punch roach defy the floods

December 19, 2019 at 4:01 pm

Rain, rain and more rain seems to be the norm so far this December, but a dry forecast today saw me head to the banks of the river Blackwater, as a heavy frost gave way to sunshine. Heavy rain was due by 4 pm, so I wanted to make the most of my session, although by the time that I had scraped the ice from the van and driven to the river it was 11 am. Due to the storms of late, I was not sure what the state of the Blackwater would be, walking to the bridge for a look, confirming my fears. It was the colour of strong builder’s tea and boiling through.

The tackle was still in the van and I stood for a while considering my options, go elsewhere, or stay. Always up for a challenge, I unloaded my gear, crossed the bridge and walked downstream. The last time that I had fished, there had been a dead tree in the water creating a slack. Unfortunately it was now on the bank, the Surrey Council having removed and cut it up. I headed back upstream to another slack on the inside of a tight bend. Too late. Another angler was now tackling up in it.

I now searched for a steady run on my side, out of the main flow; finding a corner where an outcrop from the bank created a narrow eddy.

Setting up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stick float, I plumbed the depth, 3 feet down the inside and 4 feet a rod length out. Knowing the Blackwater, this was at least a foot over normal level. It was now noon, so much for my early start. The choice of the 4 No 4 float was too light, but decided to give it a try. Introducing a couple of tight balls of liquidised bread in close, upstream behind me, following down with the float set at 3 feet. The float dragged under and I lifted to feel a fish, seeing a small roach dive for the faster water and come off.

Not a good start, but at least the fish were in a feeding mood. Putting another 6 mm pellet of bread on the size 16 barbless hook, I cast in again, this time dip, dip, dive and another small roach putting a bend in the rod, as it used the force of the current. Taking my time, I slowly wound line back, lifting the roach clear to my hand.

Next trot a slightly bigger roach was diving away toward the middle, opting to net this one.

It was time to get serious, wetting down half a pint of feed and putting on my bait apron to dry my hands. In this time the river took on more pace, rustling the ivy at my feet as it swept by, taking on more colour. Half a mile upstream, the outfall from a water treatment works empties into the river, its force usually varying thoughout the day. My slack had changed into a boiling eddy and I began to miss bites as the float was washed around in circles. I knew now that a 6 No 4 float would have been easier to control, but stuck to my lighter float, adding another 9 inches to the depth and bulking the shot closer to the hook link. A stiffer ball of feed dropped quickly to the bottom, breaking up as it disappeared from view downstream. Keeping the rod up and the line off the water, I eased the float along the crease of the eddy. Dip, dive, I was in again to another hard fighting roach.

I was now dragging up twigs, but the fish were down there, including a stonking gudgeon.

Feeding a small ball of feed every ten minutes and bumping the bait along the bottom was getting positive bites, the roach below taking the bread in a rush, hooking itself, then kiting across the river, but staying on, the hook dropping out in the net.

The pace of the river dropped back again and I shallowed up, spreading the shot and trotting through the slack, hooking in succession a trio of small chub, that skipped off the hook before I could swing them in. I went deep again and stuck to the formula, keeping the float tip under tight control. The roach kept coming in fits and starts, depending on the force of the river as it moved the eddy around.

The sun had long gone by 2 pm and an icy downstream wind was now adding to my problems, trying to lift the float from the water. I was ready to pack up, but would then hook another roach.

With only a few days left before the shortest of the year, by 3 pm the light was fading, I was shaking with the cold and my warming tea was gone, so on catching this last roach, I packed up.

It had been hard work having to chase the fish. Usually with the bread, a layer of feed will coat the bottom downstream and provide a sweet spot, where drifting the float in will get a fish a chuck, but the varying flow moved the fish about.

I missed plenty of bites and lost several fish in the current, but it had been worth the effort.

Not a good net of fish by Blackwater standards, but on the day, respectable. On the drive home, the expected rain came down with a vengeance, the dry weather window had closed again.

December bread punch carp reward

December 8, 2019 at 6:59 pm

This summer one of my local balance ponds suffered from a drop in oxygen levels, leaving hundreds of carp gasping on the surface, as they crowded around the freshwater inlets. Concerned members of the public contacted the Environment Agency, who arrived with a boat, nets and electro fishing gear to remove the bulk of the carp, many in double figures. About two hundred carp and rudd were rehomed in local pivate lakes, leaving this free public access water stripped of its prime assets.

Two years of successful spawning had left many tiny carp, commons and mirrors, while survivors of the netting are still being caught by a few regulars, and I decided to try my luck on a mild Saturday afternoon this week.

The council have reduced the level of the pond by over a foot and I settled down to fish on what is now a beach below the pond wall. Boasting a car park and a food wagon selling hot drinks, the pond is a focal point for young families bringing bread down to feed the ducks and I could see a few carp venturing into the shallows to mop up the residue left by the ducks. The only good thing about the level drop, is that the growing population of resident Canada geese seem to have deserted the pond, otherwise 18 inches above the mud bottom, is now the maximum depth. The pond has always been coloured, the water often orange, but chemicals put into the pond by the EA have cleared it and I could see the bottom right across to the island.

Setting up my 12.5 foot Normark float rod with a modified antenna pole float, I cast into an area, where a stream flows in from the left, having baited a line toward the island, catapulting out balls of liquidised bread mixed with ground carp pellets.

Mini carp were soon attacking the 8mm bread pellet, dipping the float, giving false alarm bites similar to the real thing, most not finding the hook, when I struck.

Ten minutes later the float dipped under and kept going, the rod bending into a pound plus common carp, that exploded onto the surface in the shallow water, running beyond the island as I flipped the rod over to the left to turn it. Trailing black mud, the carp ran up toward the stream as I reeled it back, bringing the rod round to the right to force it away from an overhanging bush. Once in the shallows, it beached itself and I had to force the landing net under the rolling carp, then drag it clear. Only lightly hooked, the size 16 barbless dropped out in the net. After a quick photo, I carried the net along the bank to deeper water, well away from my swim to free the common, not wanting to disturb the swim more than I needed to.

A light breeze got up, putting a bow in the line and dragging the float round, so I started a new area, catapulting more balls of feed toward the island on my right, again being bothered by baby carp. Further to my right, I could see a dark shadow moving slowly along the edge of the island toward me. It was a shoal of carp, a couple of white backed ghost carp investigating the bottom in front of the main body of fish. I catapulted a couple more balls over ahead of them. A very long common cruised into the feed area.

With anticipation, I cast into the mass of fish, the float dipping under and lifting as the bread was tested, swinging like a pendulum beneath the float. A carp swam in my direction as the float followed it, I lifted the rod. Contact! The fish accelerated at top speed to the left, scattering more carp, then came off. The shoal were now stirring up black mud, as they rooted along the bottom after the feed, tails breaking the surface. Casting in again, I missed a bite that zoomed away. Another good bite brought an anti climax, when a better 4 oz baby common stole the bait. More missed bites, then solid resistance as a carp turned away running along the island.

With the landing net tucked under my arm, I followed the running carp, keen to get beyond a wooden post standing upright in the middle of the channel, the line snagging on small branches briefly before the carp slowed. Not a big fish, about 3 lb, the common carp burrowed through the mud, then surfaced, swimming left and right making short runs, gradually being brought back to the net in a foot of water.

Back to my tackle box, after a photo, I marched along the bank to release my catch, finding that the shoal had continued on its way round the island. I sat it out for another fifteen minutes with no sign of a bite, until the float, followed by the line vanished from view. Braced for a big fish, another baby carp resisted briefly, then came off. It was now gone 3 pm, in the breeze the air was chilling and I packed up.

The carp tended to shoal, when I first fished here ten years ago, banded pellets with a pellet waggler a killer method. Today there are obviously still a fair number of carp, but it will be a while before the baby carp put on pounds, but with the now clear water and no weed cover, will the cormorants get there first?



Stick float and bread punch find winter silver fish

November 29, 2019 at 5:39 pm

Storm clouds parted this week to reveal morning sunshine, provoking my wife to comment that she was surprised that I had not planned a fishing trip. “Strange that you should mention it. I was just thinking that myself,” was my reply. This was true, despite all the technology available to the forecasters, prediction seems to be back in the dark ages these days. Some once said, “The only reliable thing about the British weather is that it is unreliable” I had not considered fishing due to a very wet forecast, but here we were with sunshine. The words “You can go if you like” did not need discussion, the bread was taken out of the freezer, followed by changing into warmer clothing, while an early lunch and a flask of tea were prepared by my understanding wife. The tackle was already in the van, so after a quick parting kiss, I was on my way at noon. With sunset at 4 pm, it would have to be a short session and I headed straight to my local river two miles away. Unloading the van, I made my way across the bridge, looking down to see the river in full flood, the colour of builder’s tea, sweeping down from the weir.

On the inside of a bend, this swim offers slack water in close, while the far side has a deeper channel carrying the full flow. Even in these conditions, with the river running level with the bank, the maximum depth in the channel is only three feet and opted for a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stemmed stick, a bit on the light side considering the speed of the river, but better for presenting the punch.

I wetted down a small quantity of liquidised bread, enough for it to hold together and sink, throwing it upstream to my right to avoid taking the fish too far down the swim. First trot the float dived out of sight and the rod bent into a roach that took full advantage of the strong current.

A smaller roach was next, then the rod bent hard round as a small chub dived back toward the bush.

Another good roach followed, but I tried to bully it back to the landing net and the size 16 barbless hook pulled out. Worried that the escapee would take the rest of the shoal with it, I put another two balls of feed upstream, then followed through with the float. Half way down the trot, the float dived away and I was rewarded with the best roach so far.


This roach ran upstream, then turned on a sixpence to dash down with the flow. In this heavily coloured water, these fish were invisible until close to the surface, guiding them over to my shallow side ready for the net.

A cold wind began blowing downstream, the enemy of all stick float anglers, while intermittent drizzle caused me to pull up my jacket hood and cover my punch bread. The flow had picked up and I tried trotting through the slacker water just past middle and began picking up smaller roach, feeding closer in hoping for better fish, but after several 2 oz fish, tried back out in the channel.

I had missed a few rapid bites and holding back hard gave an answer, when a dace hooked itself, tumbling off the hook in seconds. I added another six inches to the depth and inched the float down, the float again blipping below the surface with a dace that stayed on.

A few more dace and a small chub followed before I tried another tactic. Adding another six inches to the depth and pulling most of the shot to bulk a foot above the hook, I swung the well over depth rig out into the channel, allowing the line to trip over my finger from the ABU 501, then pulling the rod back slowly to halt the float with the line running free. Following down again usually saw the float pull under with a good roach, if not a repeat of the process did the trick.

The roach were hard on the bottom scooping up the feed and regular small tight balls thrown well upstream kept them there, while the dace chased the loose offerings.

Gudgeon had joined the roach feeding on the carpet of bread crumbs, catching two for every roach.

The light was now fading fast and the drizzle had turned to light rain, making this roach my last at 3:30.

It had been difficult to keep the bread dry in the rain, constant rebaiting exposing it too often. Harder, steam rolled punch bread would have survived better, but I had done none and had persevered with soggy bait, a 7 mm punch allowing enough bread to wrap around the hook.

I had still been catching when I packed up, an earlier start could have doubled this 4 lb net of silvers.





Bread punch beats the cold for rudd and carp

November 21, 2019 at 4:14 pm

The coldest night of the year so far had left the grass crunchy white, but by 11 am the low winter sun was out and warm on my back, as I took the 10 minute walk to a nearby pond for a few hours on the bread punch. Apart from ice in the margins, the rest of this shallow pond was clear and I walked round to the north west end, where the winter sun had a chance to warm the surface.

There was no surface movement, a sign that even the resident shoals of rudd were feeling the cold and I decided that a single ball of liquidised bread at 8 metres was enough to start. Dropping the waggler rig over the feed got no reaction after several minutes and I assumed that the 5 mm punched bread had fallen off the hook. Lifting out, the bait was still there and I tried again, more minutes passing, before a slight dip of the float indicated interest. When half the float tip sank, I lifted into a small rudd.

Putting the float back out over the feed, saw a speedier response and a better rudd swung to hand.

The rudd were waking up and I chanced another ball close to the first to create a bit of competition among the fish, putting the float in to the right of the second ball and to the left of the first, each time the float sinking away with another rudd. The elastic came out, when a good rudd made off with the float carp style, gradual submersion with the line following down a hole. The landing net had to come out for this one.

The condition of these fish was impressive, thick in the shoulder they fought all the way to the net.

Encouraged by the now free biting rudd, I put in another two balls of bread in the hope of attracting the local crucian and common carp population to feed, but after the first hour it had been rudd, rudd and more rudd, a lone quality roach breaking the trend.

This pond used to be balanced 50-50 between roach and rudd, but then with rudd like these, who is complaining? Not me.

My next fish was a gudgeon, a survivor from the brook that once flowed through this area, before the council covered the land with houses and culverted the stream underground, the pond used to balance the flow in times of flood.

The sun had now sunk behind the trees on the railway embankment, while the light and temperature were falling in unison, a chilling breeze ruffling the surface, blowing directly at me, making bite detection difficult and fishing uncomfortable. I had set my finishing time to 3 pm, but with five minutes to go, the float drifted beneath the waves and I struck into the solid resistance of a crucian carp.

This was followed by a small common carp that pulled out the elastic in a run worthy of a fish twice its size.

The reduced light seemed to have put down the rudd and brought on the carp, but it also encouraged more gudgeon to feed, getting them one a chuck, like fishing in a bucket.

I probably had about a dozen of these big gudgeon, before after a similar dithering bite, I hooked into another crucian.

The crucian bites were slow to develope, but worth the wait for these little battlers. Pin prick bubbles were now bursting in the swim as the feed was mopped up from the muddy bottom.

I had expected the crucians to come on sooner, but they were most welcome after my rudd bashing of earlier.

I did not see the bite of my last fish, only striking when I saw the line moving across the surface, a chunky common carp stirring up the mud in its efforts to escape.

I should have switched to flash on my camera, the result, a fuzzy picture, but it was time to go, not wishing to walk back in the dark.

This cut down canal waggler has served me well on this pond, as has the bread punch.

Never a dull moment left little time for drinking tea and eating sandwiches today, the scales showing close to 10 lbs for four hours work.

Pike calls time on roach fishing at Braybrooke

November 14, 2019 at 11:44 am

When I was a child, my brother and I would stare out through steamed up windows, as rain lashed down, forming armies of rain soldiers that marched down the path to our house. We would sing a little nursery rhyme “Rain, rain go away, Come again another day. Rain, rain go to Spain, fair weather come again.” We wanted to go out to play, but the rain stopped us. The rhyme gave us hope, that the clouds would part, giving way to sunshine. The weather of late caused me to remember those long lost days, reciting the words did not work then and do not today, but feeling the frustration of being kept inside, while I wanted to be out fishing, has not changed.

I got my chance today, a clear day was promised by the weatherman and I set the alarm to rise early to take advantage of it, but looking outside, I saw that Jack Frost had visited overnight, coating the grass and cars with white. I could counter this with thermals and winter woolies, but frost would have an effect on the fishing and hoped that Jeane’s Pond at Braybrooke recreation ground was not covered with ice.

What a relief, conditions seemed perfect, strong winds had failed to shift the autumn leaves onto the pond and today not a whiff of breeze ruffled the surface. This swim has deeper water close in and I set up with a 16 x 4 antenna float to fish 3 foot deep onto the shelf to my left, close to the drop off into another foot of water. A small ball of liquidised bread onto the shelf and another a few feet further out, was my opening gambit, laying the float across the feed on the shelf.

Starting with a 5mm bread pellet on a size 16 barbless, I had to wait five minutes before the first tell tale rings spread out from the float to indicate a bite, the antenna then sinking very slowly beneath the surface. A firm lift of the short pole, saw the elastic come briefly out of the tip, as contact was made and a roach surfaced to be netted.

A decent roach first cast was a good sign that the fish had not been put off by the cold, although this one felt like an ice lolly in my hand. Dropping the float back over the feed, the float dipped and sank away again with another roach.

Resisting the temptation to feed more bread, I continued fishing over the spot, the slow biting roach obliging by taking the punch.

Even a small perch got in on the act, taking the bait on the drop.

After twenty roach, the bites stopped abruptly. I guessed that a pike had moved into the concentration of feeding fish. Dropping in a ball of bread, then following it with the float got an instant bite and a smaller roach, then nothing. I now fed a ball to my extreme right a few yards away and started again, the first bite bringing a decent roach.

I was back in the groove again, swinging in fish, plus the occasional netter.

The bites slowed again, then the pike took a roach. The elastic stretched out steadily as the pike moved off. It was in no hurry, the bright orange stonfo elastic connector following the float into the depths, as I put on more sections of pole. This was a big pike and it circled from the right out to the middle, unaware of my efforts to stay in contact, the elastic doing its job as I followed it round. The pressure began to tell and the pike turned back toward me, first the stonfo, then the float reappeared, while I unshipped the pole down to four metres, ready to net the beast. It let go of the roach.

I was disappointed not to have netted the pike. They have been the bane of my life on many waters this year, especially at this pond and would at least liked to have had the satisfaction of getting this one on the bank. I would have returned it well away from my swim, then continued fishing uninterrupted.

A couple more balls of feed soon had the bites coming, but the pike struck again, zooming off this time, taking the roach with it. The pike had gone to the right, so I went back over to where I had started on the left and began to catch again. It did not take long for the pike to return, swirling after hooked fish. Whatever the size, I now lifted everything out as quickly as possible. As I lifted a roach out, the pike followed, its head clear of the surface, jaws wide open, then fell back into the water.

This was a double figure pike, the surface boil remaining long enough for me to get a photo, despite being in shock.

The pike had won the battle of nerves and it was time to call it a day in this swim. I was taking my wife to the cinema in the afternoon anyway, so it had only been intended as a short session. It had been just over two hours of productive fishing. Shame about the pike.




Bread punch roach on the stick float from Roundmoor Ditch

October 30, 2019 at 8:06 pm

The clocks have gone back and summer is just a fond memory, but good fishing is still abundant in my area, deciding on an afternoon fishing a small tributary of the Thames, the Roundmoor Ditch, this week. Parking the van in the recreation ground carpark, I loaded up the trolley and hiked round the football pitches to the tiny fast flowing stream. I tried to locate where I had fished twenty years ago, a tight right hand bend passing under trees. The bend was still there, but the trees were gone, the open area giving plenty of sunshine for a thick growth of impenetrable surface weed. I continued downstream to a tunnel of trees, where the weed stopped short, allowing a trot down the inside into a weedless area.

Average depth here is two feet over gravel and I was expecting big dace to 8 oz, plus the occasional chub, but being only a quarter of a mile from the Thames confluence, anything could turn up, even barbel.

Crossing the recreation ground to the river, I had been blasted by a cold easterly wind and my main reason for choosing this swim was that it was sheltered by the bushes and a large oak tree. I set up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with an ABU 501 reel and a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stemmed stick float, shotted for the weights to taper down toward the size 16 hook. Due to the fast flow, I wetted down liquidised bread, so that the balls would sink quickly and disburse along the bottom, dropping them in at my feet.

First trot, the float had only travelled ten feet before it sank away trailing line, the strike putting a bend in the tip as a small chub made its initial run.

Dropping the float in at my feet avoided tangles with an overhanging willow above my head, while a branch protruding from the opposite bank required a flat upstream strike. My next cast brought a much better chub, that ran upstream into the weed, burying itself and snagging the hook, which was lost. Only my second cast and I needed a new hook!

A fresh hook tied on with already cold hands, was baited with a 5 mm punch of bread and trotted down, the float disappearing again as another small chub charged off with it. This time, keeping the rod low, I let it fight further downstream, until it was on the surface, guiding it into the narrow weed free channel on my side, then past me to be lifted clear upstream in the wind. This was not an easy swim to fish, no wonder that I seemed to have been the only one to try it this year, having to clear room for my tackle box among the stinging nettles lining the bank.

The bouncing fight of a roach, next put the rod to work, succeeding with the navigation of the natural obstacle course, swinging it to hand upstream.

Smaller roach and chub followed in quick succession, then a better roach made it to the sanctuary of the weed, but this time releasing the line saw it swim free to continue the fight.

At last a dace was tumbling on the surface, although it was well short of my expected size.

That was the only dace that I saw, which is puzzling considering ideal conditions and Roundmoor’s previous history as a dace water. The rod was soon bending again to a decent roach, which I took a chance to swing in.

Due to the overhanging willow above my head, I decided to move my tackle box upstream by four feet to allow safer netting of fish, although I was now in the full force of the wind, which was colder as cloud cover increased. Somehow in the move, my line had broken close to the reel and picking up the rod to rebait in the hook, I was bemused to see the wind carry the float over into the weed in front of me, followed by the line flowing out of the rod rings. The float snagged in the weed and after several attempts, I managed to wrap the loose line round the landing net and to grab the free end, pulling the float free, but loosing another hook on the coarse weed. What a disaster, just as better sized roach had moved up into the swim, I was unable to take advantage of the situation.

I had only been fishing for ninety minutes and had to set up again, thankful that I had found time to tie some more hooks to nylon over the weekend. After a calming cup of tea and a sandwich, I wound the loose line around my fingers, cutting it through, making two inch lengths, that fitted into my now empty sandwich bag, ready for disposal at home. After what seemed an age, I was ready to start fishing again.

During my forced interval, I had continued dropping balls of bread in at my feet, the float burying first cast and the rod bending to the butt with a very nice fish, that dived away downstream. My first thought was chub, but the pounding fight of a good roach said otherwise. Again this fish found the weed bed too inviting, but the slack line technique persuaded the roach to drop back, while the barbless hook hung on.

What a clonker, this roach showed signs of a healed pike attack.

Despite going up to a 6 mm punch, I was still catching nuisance minnows and small chub, but there were still better fish to be had.

This roach had a bright orange stain under its throat, like many taken today it had dropped scales, but was otherwise fighting fit.

I lost another good roach in the weed shortly after and the swim died for ten minutes, being on the verge of packing up, when I netted my last roach.

While packing up, a local fisherman came over to see what I had caught, pleasantly surprised with my catch, saying that although from the village, he had never tried this little gem of a river, let alone the bread punch, preferring to walk the extra yards to the Thames itself.

I had thrown back many smaller fish, my final net testament to an interesting, if not chilly three hours.


Autumn bread punch roach on the stick float

October 23, 2019 at 5:58 pm

A dry sunny afternoon called for a change of plans this week and I drove the van a couple of miles to my local river, with a plan to catch some chub before the the leaves fall. I was worried that days of rain would have coloured up the river, but found it clear with a steady pace, a change from my last visit in summer, when it was almost like a still canal. It is a good half mile walk from the car park to the chosen swim, which fortunately was empty, having invested the energy in getting there.

On the outside of a curve, the flow carries beneath a far bank bush, then under trees and has reliably produced catches of chub to over a pound; good sport on my 12 ft Hardy float rod. This was the most transparent that I have seen the river this year, leaves clearly visible on the bottom and I was keen to clear a patch among the Himalayan Balsam to place my tackle box. From mid river, there is a depth of 3 ft, deepening another 6 inches close to the bush, giving a level trot without snags.

Setting up with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stem stick float, I started the session with the float set to run through a foot off bottom, the chub charging through the cloud of liquidised bread before it reaches bottom. While getting ready, I had thrown a ball upstream of the bush and with a 6mm punch of bread on the hook, followed a second ball as it broke up, drifting downstream. The float sank out of sight on contact with the river and I braced for a rod bending fight. The rod did bend, but only to a five inch chub.

Each cast saw the float sink away before it had travelled a yard, but each time the result was the same, or smaller. A cast to the downstream end of the bush brought a matching pair of tiny roach, the only rod bender coming from a lone rudd.

This is the first time that I’ve not had a decent chub in the first five minutes from this swim and after a dozen trots, added a foot to the depth to trip bottom, where I hoped to find a few roach. I put a ball down the middle and another one above the bush, where an underhand cast positioned the float, holding back slightly to straighten the line to the rod. The float sank and I was playing a roach. At least something was working!

Next cast, same spot, a bigger roach that flashed silver in the sunlight, as it rushed around the river, the size 16 barbless hook falling out in the landing net.

If I can’t catch chub, then fighting roach are an acceptable substitute and the bread punch was queuing them up to get on the hook.

Another fin perfect beauty from this little river, which runs through a narrow ribbon of greenery alongside a main road on one side and a housing estate on the other. More urban than rural.


After an hour the bites were getting fussy with the roach smaller and I noticed that the water had gone cloudy, while the pace picked up.

The next fish was a surprise, a bottom hugging gudgeon, the first I’ve seen since the pollution that wiped out most of the fish three years ago.

My pleasure at this first sight was soon displaced as gudgeon began to be the only fish feeding and even these went off, when the river turned orange. This was a problem before, when builders erecting 2,400 new homes across the main road, that runs parallel to the river, were flushing mud and sand from the new roads straight into the surface drains. They have obviously started a new phase of housing and this is the result. The answer for me was get get my tea and sandwiches out and wait for it to pass, setting the float over dept to lay on mid river.

My picnic was interrupted, when the float bobbed then sank and I snatched up the rod to feel a decent roach on the hook, the rod bending as it ran off downstream, unseen in the murk, before coming to the net.

The river began to clear and a cast back above the bush produced a sail away bite and a small chub.

A bite that sped downstream was stopped and another brightly painted rudd swung to hand.

The roach were now back feeding and I cashed in, making up for lost time, taking one a chuck.

Having started fishing at 12, I made this solid roach my last fish three hours later.


With my second bread square with no spaces left to punch, it was time to pack up and join the traffic home.

A mixed bag of about 50 fish, despite the slow interlude, was compensated for the lack of chub by a net of prime roach.

During the long uphill walk back to the van, I could see that the bottom had turned orange with the sand, evidence that the construction company were not keeping to their agreement with the Environment Agency to flush contaminated water into overflow ponds.

Specimen crucian carp bread punch reward

October 17, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Heavy morning rain gave way to sunshine and a last minute arrangement at lunchtime saw me meet up with a fellow club member Alan, on an exchange water Hitcham Ponds. Despite a covering of green algae on the surface, conditions looked perfect for an eventful afternoon fishing the pond, which has an abundance of common carp, bream, crucian carp and rudd.

Local to this water, Alan was going to fish his usual method, micropellet feed with either banded pellet or maggots on the hook, using a waggler rig with a rod and running line. I have only fished the water a few times over the years and have used the bread punch with great success for crucians and skimmer bream, plus the occasional common carp and was confident of a repeat performance.

Before I had set out my stall, Alan was reeling in his first fish, a skimmer bream, followed by a decent rudd, both on the maggot. I was going to fish the pole, selecting a 4 x14 antenna float with shot bulked a foot from the size 18 barbless hook, I plumbed the depth and set to fish just off bottom. Following a ball of liquidised bread at five metres with the float, I did not have long to wait for the antenna to dip and glide off with a tiny roach clinging to the 6 mm bread pellet. This was the pattern for the next half hour, with me throwing back a three inch roach, skimmer, or gudgeon every cast, while Alan continued to put a bend in his rod as small carp found his banded pellets. Bubbles were rising steadily from my feed, but a raft of small stuff was attacking the bait before it could reach the bottom, despite the bulked shot. I expect to catch smaller fish, until the better fish push them out, but this was not going to plan, made worse by Alan, who was fighting yet another carp. An offer of some pellets and maggots was turned down, just before the float sailed away and a good rudd came to the net.

I had stepped up the feed, also going up to a 7 mm punch and this rudd was the result, another cast bringing a small skimmer bream, the bread punch finally showing progress. The slow thump of a bream bore this out, as it steadily stretched out the elastic and I waited for it to come back to me, seeing the silver flash of its deep flank through the green algae. It rolled off the size 18 hook and I considered increasing to a size 16, but this would mean time lost, so stuck with the smaller hook. Small roach were giving me carp look-a-like bites, dips, then sliding away at speed. It was a surprise when I lifted into the real thing, the 12 – 18 elastic zipping out from the pole, following the carp as it circled under the strain of the elastic. With a direct line to his fish, Alan took no prisoners, bundling another common into his net, while I waited for my carp to come to the surface to be netted.

More small fish continued to take the bread, a rudd photo worthy with bright red fins.

Bites were slower now, the heavier feed bringing in some better fish, another common carp rushing off with the bread.

Alan packed up, content that had sorted out a method for a match on the pond in two weeks time, while I plodded on with the bread, bubbles continuing to burst on the surface around the float. I lost a good carp at the net, that had circled round and round several time, before stopping out in front of me. Impatient to get the fish in the landing net, I pulled up to get the carp to surface, only for it to suddenly come to life, boiling on the surface and pulling the hook out. Hooking into another pellet of punch, I flicked the float back out and it sank away immediately and I was playing another carp.

This was as large as the one that I had just lost and I took my time allowing it circle, until it gave up on the surface, a bit of pressure guiding it into the net. I had been feeding a small ball each cast and now that the bread bag was empty, had decided to call it a day at 5 pm. With minutes to go, the float moved off and sank trailing line. I lifted into a solid weight, that took out the elastic like a rocket, the fish rolling on the surface against the strain. This was not another common carp. It looked and fought like a tench, rolling and diving, but the tail was not black, also being too wide. Soon the mystery was solved, it was a very large crucian carp and again I gave it an easy time, netting the bucking fish, as it barrel rolled on the surface.

The size 18 barbless had held on and I was relieved to get the big crucian in the keepnet, after a quick weigh-in that brought the scales round to 3 lb 8 oz. Coincidentally, the same size as my previous personal best crucian carp, that I caught this year from my local river.

My deadline had been reached, being content that the swim had finally come good, although it had failed to attract any other crucian carp, or the expected bream.

Not a big haul for this pond, but worth the effort of coming out for a few hours, proving that pellet is not always the answer on these hard fished waters.